We caught up with Frank Mazzocco recently about his return to airwaves calling Gopher Hockey.
GS: Do you have any special memories of working with Wally in the 1980s?
FM: When Wally and I worked TV together there was a game when I heard some commotion during a commercial break in the stands. This was at old Mariucci and I took my headphones off. The whole building was chanting, "Frank, Wally! Frank, Wally!" I don't know how long it had been going on. I don't know if it had been going on just that night or for a couple of games, but I nudged Wally and told him to take his headphones off. We both looked at each other with this stunned amazement that there were people who knew us and were following us. That is what I am looking forward to getting back this year, that partnership that we had and that relationship with the fans. That was one of the more passionate and moving things that I have ever gone through in those early days in Mariucci Arena. If we can bring that kind of interest back, that will be just outstanding.
GS: Frank, you were the play-by-play announcer for so many years for the Gophers on television. How do think you will adjust to being the analyst?
FM: It will be an interesting switch, and I cannot say that I know what to expect. What I need to do is keep in mind that I need to play off my partner whether I am doing play-by-play or color so that we compliment what each other is saying. It will be different. It is a different skill set, but I think that I can add a lot by just doing my homework and research. In television, you do not have time to do a lot of additional stuff as speakers because there is so much stuff that is pre-produced and video driven. In radio, it will just be Wally and I. So getting to know the players and getting to know the coaches again and then feeding that information to the listener, that is what I feel my job will be. I am looking forward to it a lot.
GS: What was last season like for you? You had been around the program for so long, but last you were not.
FM: Once the decision was made in spring 2010 I was able to plunge into my photography business and stayed busy. But then you begin to feel it. You miss the excitement of the playoffs and my workload had come down after the holidays so I really began to miss being around the game last spring.
GS: You were only gone a year, but a lot of things have changed. The WCHA has expanded to 12 teams. The Gophers will soon be joining the Big Ten. Mike Guentzel is back on staff. What do you make of all these changes?
FM: I think all the changes will probably be a good thing for me because I cannot expect to move into an easy chair like things used to be. Things have changed radically, and they are going to continue to change in the next couple of years for college hockey too. It will force me to get off dead center and rethink some things. There are also some stories that I need to get caught up on that were taking place during my transition the last 18 months.
GS: Now that you are back, what is one road trip you are looking forward to the most?
FM: I always enjoyed going to the Rocky Mountains and to Colorado, so the Denver trip is going to be great. I am looking forward to the new arena in Duluth and I have never been to Anchorage, so I am looking forward to that as well. I will need Wally to serve as tour guide for me and show me what all the excitement is about up there.
GS: You were only gone a year, so you still know some of the current players. Is there a player or players that you are excited to see on the ice again?
FM: One thing that struck me right away is that Taylor Matson is captain. I got to know him just a little bit because of his injury situation in his first couple of years. I knew him as a character guy and a quality guy and missed seeing him play because of the injuries. I am looking forward to seeing him play. The naming of the captain to me is always a big deal. There are so few in Gopher Hockey history, so I am always looking forward to finding out who the new captain is going to be.
From a distance, what I saw last year was a pretty darn good freshman class. This year's recruiting class is going to be among one of the better ones of the last few years for the Gophers. That roughly gives the Gophers half a roster on the upswing. Now, it will take the freshmen awhile to develop, but those are some positive signs to build off of.
GS: The freshmen are not the only new part of the program this year, as Mike Guentzel is also back on the staff. What do you think Guentzel coming back to the staff will mean?
FM: I can tell you what it means to a lot of people on the street, which is basically where I spent the last year and a half. People are really excited and I think that will rub off on the players. The players are going to have a good sounding board. They are going to have a guy they can go to with what delights them and what ails them. Mike has a really good ear and he will listen to them, but he also has a way of giving a real good swift kick in the rear end too. Players know he will listen, and fans know he will motivate.
GS: You came to one game last year. What will it feel like walking back into Mariucci Arena this season?
FM: I am really looking forward to it. I missed not being around, but I knew it would have been painful to be around last year and being on the outside. I would have enjoyed going to games and walking around the concourse and seeing everything as a fan, but I could not do it. I needed to have a little separation. It will be nice to come back as part of the Gopher Hockey clan, and I am very much looking forward to it.